Thursday, March 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Felt Monkey Finger Puppet Tutorial and Free Pattern

On Thursdays I'll repost old posts that I think are worth sharing again, many from my old blog Maman A Droit. I may make a few changes to them, primarily fixing errors and updating links. I hope you enjoy them as much this time around!

I decided to make my son some felt animal finger-puppets. He loves animals, especially monkeys, right now and we're working on learning how to pronounce all their names and make the noises they make. I thought finger puppets would be a great way to supplement the learning-about-animals we've been doing with books, Fisher-Price Little People, singing "Old McDonald", and staring & pointing at the occasional woodland creature who strays into our "backyard" (We live in an apartment, so I'm using the term pretty loosely).

I remember thinking they were fun as a kid, and also figured they were simple enough I might be able to actually make them successfully despite my limited sewing skills. The fact that felt is dirt cheap is an added bonus (20-40 cents for an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet in my neck of the woods).

So I started hunting for patterns. I fell in love with some on Etsy, but couldn't justify spending the money/

I enlisted the aid of the children's librarian and scoured through dated books on puppet-making, all to no avail.

So I took a big gulp, and made my own. And to my worked! I used the auto-shapes in Microsoft Word for the shapes, and hand-embroidered the eyes, nose, & mouth. And here's what my completed monkey finger puppet looked like:

His neck was a bit too long & narrow, so I corrected the pattern. So if you follow this pattern, the neck will be more like this bunny (pattern coming next!):

Anyway, I want to share my patterns with you guys, for free. So click here to get to the PDF of my monkey finger puppet pattern (on Google docs) and feel free to print it, use it, customize it, & share it! And please leave me comments to let me know how it goes or if you have any questions. I'm hoping to make lots more-you can see I already made a bunny (for his Easter basket) and I'll try to post as many patterns for you as I can.

Materials needed for monkey finger puppet:
Brown felt
Light brown or white felt.
Embroidery floss in the same two colors as your felt.
Sewing needle

Print the PDF pattern & follow the instructions on it. For the eyes, I used satin stitch to make some rough ovals, then backstitch to outline them. I used backstitch on the nose and mouth.

2014 note: I found it easier and cuter to actually cut out the head and body all as one piece. This relieves the problem you can see where this cute little monkey had an oddly long and narrow neck. Besides correcting the pattern a bit after that, I also just didn't get his head positioned as well as I ought to have before doing my final stitching!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gentle parenting techniques for blood draws

Parents of babies and kids with special needs know: blood draws and shots may be routine to the nurses, phlebotomists, doctors and lab techs who handle them, but they're no picnic for our little ones! Through our own experience and through chatting with other parents of babies and kids with special needs though we've come up with some pretty good strategies for parenting gently during pokes. 

All ages
  • Stay calm, both before and during the procedure. Children of all ages pick up on the emotions of their parents. 
  • Request someone new if the person drawing cannot get a good draw after a few pokes. Medical professionals are real people like the rest of us and sometimes have bad days or specific tasks at work that just don't seem to be going quite right. And that's okay-but when it's your child, it's also okay to request someone else try today. 
  • Make sure your child is especially well hydrated the day before the blood draw. This will make it easier to do the blood draw, which should make it a more pleasant experience for everyone.

Newborn and Infant
  • Ask whether you may hold your newborn during blood draws. I was actually able to hold and even nurse my son during some heel pricks in the newborn days, which made it much easier to keep him calm. 
  • If your child can sit well supported by you, ask if you can have your child sitting in your lap to do an intravenous blood draw, much like how an adult would do such a draw sitting up. 
  • Stay calm and use your voice to calm your baby. It's disheartening to not be able to hold your baby when they are in pain and/or upset, but you can use your voice to let them know you are still there and help them stay calm. Whether you're singing a favorite lullaby or saying "shh shh shh", your child will be calmed by your voice. 
  • Nurse as soon as possible after the blood draw. 
  • Plan on nursing extra throughout the rest of the day, especially if your baby was very upset by the draw or had very much blood taken. 

Toddler and Beyond
  • Prepare your child ahead of time with an age and personality appropriate explanation. For my older son right now, this means a brief explanation, but not very far in advance, and making it clear that it is not a big deal. 
  • Make clear your expectations that it may hurt a little and its okay for them to cry or say so, but it is not okay for them to behave aggressively towards medical staff (or anyone else) or to shout (or whatever your specific concerns are with your child). 
  • Distract him or during the blood draw by talking, reading them a story, singing, showing him a show on a tablet or smartphone, or whatever else would be a good distraction for your child. An awesome company I recently heard about called Buzzy actually sells distraction cards that are perfect for this, along with their namesake device, the Buzzy, which distracts your child's body (I don't actually completely understand it, but it basically confuses and distracts your nerves and has been proven to reduce pain by up to 50%! They were on SharkTank this week so I'm excited to watch it online and hear them explain it more in depth then!) Blowing has also been shown to help, much like focused breathing can help with labor pains! Since hospital staff might not appreciate you blowing bubbles in their lab, I recommend something less messy to inspire blowing, like a pinwheel.
  • Give your child a snack when they get home especially if they have had very much blood taken. You might even consider making this something kind of special, just as many adults have juice and cookies after a blood draw. This will help them rehydrate and replenish their electrolytes while also improving morale!
I hope some of these ideas help your family next time you're due for a shot or blood draw! And I'd love to hear your tips too: how do you help your children cope with blood draws, shots, and other medically necessary pokes?

Some links are affiliate links. I received no compensation for this post.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Learning Through Play Giveaway & Ogo Bild Pod Review!

learning through play
This review is part of Natural Parents Network's Learning through Play Giveaway! "Play is . . . the way that children make the world their own, exploring, making sense of all their new experiences, and recovering from life's upsets." {Larry Cohen, Playful Parenting} It is also well-established that children learn through play, which is why we've gathered some creative and fun products and websites to share with you and your children. The Learning through Play Giveaway features nine amazing products for kids of all different ages and interests. I'm featuring one of those companies in my review below. When you get done reading my review, please click on over to the full Learning through Play giveaway post (live on March 1), where you'll find information on all of the goodies you can win. In total, we're giving away products worth $738!
Even if you don't win one of our fabulous prize packages, please consider spending part of your educational budget at one of these small businesses. By supporting small businesses and independent authors, you are helping families, boosting local economies, and supporting ethical practices of manufacturing, production and selling. Without further ado, here is my review - thank you for reading and entering! (Check back here on March 1 when our Rafflecopter widget will be live and ready for entries.) 

What it is
The OgoBild POD is a building set comprised of 12 rubber balls with 12 holes in them and 30 plastic tubes with rounded knobs on the ends designed to fit into the holes on the balls.

Who made it
Ogo Sport, an innovative toy company started by a pair of graduates of the Pratt Institute of design hoping to make high-quality toys that encourage creative, open-ended play for all ages!

Our experience
We love it! In fact, it inspired us to make our first ever video review:

Basically, OgoBild POD is a fun toys with lots of possibilities that is fun for preschoolers on up. My whole family loved building different shapes and sizes of structures and playing inside them. At one point my husband, preschooler, baby and I were all playing inside a fort we built from the OgoBild POD all together!
While my 4 year old son is slightly below the recommended age range, he was able to build simple shapes using the OgoBild POD all by himself, and with my help build complicated structures.
I also love that it is washable plastic, so I can take it outside this spring/summer and make a fort to picnic and play in. 
We did have a slight problem with a defective pole, and I included a picture so you can see that it is sharp inside and probably a choking hazard for babies (who are not the recommended age for this, but may be playing inside the fort their older sibling built!), just so you know to watch out if one of yours breaks. The pole that broke from my set broke the first time we used it, so it was clearly defective and not a product that just got worn out faster than expected. The others have all proven very sturdy. 
I was extremely impressed with Ogo Sport's customer service. Within a few days of notifying them of the defective piece, I had a replacement from them! 

Easy to build with
Easy clean up
Great customer service

Can't build squares/cubes
Knobs have sharp end if out of tubes

The bottom line
I definitely recommend the Ogo Bild kit to families who love engineering, building, and playing in forts!

Buy it
You can buy the Ogo Bild Pod directly from Ogo Sport, from many specialty toy stores around the nation, or from Amazon.

Win it
Ogo Sport is giving an OgoBild POD building kit to one lucky reader of Crunchy Con Mommy and the Natural Parents' Network! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Learning through Play Giveaway: Enter March 1 - 31, 2014!

$738 ARV; United States residents only

Enter below in our Rafflecopter widget - the main entry is simply to tell us which prize you'd prefer. a Rafflecopter giveaway For actions like following and subscribing, if you already follow or subscribe, just tell us with your entry. Tweets must be a minimum of 24 hours apart — you can return to update your Rafflecopter entry without losing any of your previous entries. Your Tweets must be unprotected (publicly viewable). You don’t have to do any of the bonus entries, but you do have to complete the first mandatory one. Rafflecopter will pick the winner through after the contest closes, and a representative from NPN will send an email notification. Leave a valid email address as you enter so we can contact you if you win. If we can’t reach a winner, we’ll draw a new name at random. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by email; otherwise, NPN will select another winner. No purchase necessary. Entrants must be age 18 or older and be residents of the United States. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Winners agree to hold Natural Parents Network and the giveaway hosts harmless for any problem with receipt and/or use of prizes. Winner must contact the product seller or manufacturer directly if there is any problem with the prize or prize delivery. Winners are responsible for any taxes or customs fees related to prize winnings. NPN and the giveaway hosts reserve the right to publicize the winner's first name. Void where prohibited by law.  

Contest closes March 31 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

Disclosure: Reviewers received sample products for review purposes, and consideration was given to NPN for hosting the giveaway. Amazon and other links may be affiliate links. We try to seek out only products we think you would find relevant and useful to your life as a natural parent. If we don't like a product, we won't be recommending it to you. See our full disclosure policy here.